We all know that sleep is very important, but we rarely delve into how many processes it affects in our lives. In fact, if you want to improve your quality of life both physically and psychologically, there is no more important thing you can do than sleep better. The topic of sleep is relevant to me, so I would force myself to read a lot of research so I can learn to sleep better. I also decided to write this article to systematize the information I have and to add new details from time to time, as sleep research is now very much on the wave and new details are emerging that can help.
Why sleep better?
Sleep is the main thing that activates autophagy, perhaps the most important process that affects human health and longevity when our body cleanses and reloads. During autophagy, with great simplification, the good parts of the cell “eat” the bad ones, the hormones are balanced, the body is detoxified and bacteria and viruses are destroyed. Activation of autophagy directly determines how long and how well we live and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Cancer, Diabetes, Heart and other neurodegenerative diseases. Another equally important thing is the connection between sleep and insulin. Sleeping well improves insulin adaptation, which means that the body deals better with food and energy, so we can lose weight while sleeping. Sleep also controls the hormones of appetite (Leptin) and hunger (Ghrelin), so sleeping well one night reduces our hunger by 15% and the next day we naturally want to eat less. When we sleep poorly, we fall into a vicious circle that affects our entire health.
- Sleep and Productivity According to Harvard University studies, poor sleep and good rest are responsible for our mood, our ability to concentrate, and to perform more complex mental functions. Sleep also “regulates” our working memory, logical thinking, and mathematical capabilities, making poor sleep a complete productivity killer.
- Sleep and Psychology
Insomnia stimulates the production of the “stress hormone” cortisol, so good sleep is one of the best antidepressants, with some studies showing that insomnia increases the chance of depression by a factor of 10. Cortisol is very necessary for our body, but when it is too much in the evenings we cannot fall asleep peacefully. The relationship between sleep and psychological state is quite interesting – if you are already in a deep depression then sometimes the reverse method is used – a restriction on sleep that causes shock and prevents you from diving into it even deeper.
- Sleep and Sports
Sleep produces human growth hormone, which is responsible for the growth of muscle tissue, protects muscles from damage and helps them recover after injury. So if you really want to do better sports and build muscle, good sleep is a must. The world’s best athletes often have their own sleep teachers to help them create routines that help them sleep better and thus gain an advantage over their competitors.
Top Biohacks – What to do to sleep better
- Stress management
Stress in low doses is a very positive and hardening factor for our body, but too much stress is the biggest pest to both the whole human body and sleep. Dealing with stress isn’t really very difficult, but it requires constant effort and developing new habits, which takes some time and that’s why we’re completely unbelievable in this matter. Stress management is a very broad topic, so I will one day take the time to write a separate article about it, and now briefly about the techniques that help with sleep. Meditation or other breathing exercises of your choice can be very helpful in managing stress. When we often hear the word meditation, we equate it with spirituality and are therefore afraid to try it, but it should be thought of as an exercise in breathing or directing thoughts that can help calm us down. Exercise is another thing that helps reduce stress very well, but keep in mind that exercise is best 3-4 hours before bedtime because the stress hormone cortisol is produced during exercise and needs to take a little “walk” before you go to bed because otherwise you fall asleep will be difficult. Time in nature, an easy walk or being with friends are so important natural antidepressants, in doing so we relax, recharge and can relax. Cold-heat therapy, like a cold shower or a cold shower after a sauna, improves blood circulation and helps calm our nervous system, so it can also be one way to improve sleep quality.
- Blue light blocking
The blue light emitted by computers, televisions, telephones, and light bulbs also upsets our circadian rhythm, deceiving our body that it still limits the production of melatonin at noon. I had to visit the Health Summit in London, so biohackers look at the blue light in perhaps the most threatening way, trying to protect themselves from it in every way, sometimes perhaps too extreme – most of them sat with pink glasses, completely blocking the blue light on the phone screens and very bright red, it’s even hard to see anything there. No need to go to extremes, but simple glasses that block the blue light can be bought for 5-20 pounds on Amazon or Aliexpress and they will definitely help a lot. You can also adjust your compo and phone screens so that they start to show slightly warmer colors from 3pm to 5pm and remind your brain that it’s already getting ready. It takes a minute to do this – just go to the “Screen Control” event and almost all newer computers and phones have this feature, if you don’t find it just “help” how to do it. Another important decision is not to use electronic devices at least an hour before bed and leave them in another room, this will not only help you calm down, not distract, but will also reduce the chance of a blue light, it is clearly easier to write about than to do.
- Total darkness in the room Our body is very sensitive to light and it turns out that even the slightest light in the room can “knock out” it from the circadian rhythm. One of the easiest solutions is to buy black out blinds that are completely opaque. I didn’t expect it, but this thing helped me personally the most.
- Low room temperature and fresh air
You have probably already noticed this yourself – it is always easier to fall asleep in a well-ventilated room with a temperature of about 15 -22 ° C. An interesting recommendation of sleep experts is to put one part of the body (leg or arm) out of the bed so that the body can feel the difference in temperature. By the way, sleeping in a cold room not only helps you fall asleep faster, but also burns fat better.
I’m not a big fan of supplements, but some of them really help sleep, Vitamin D – stimulates the production of melatonin, Mangnium and Vitamin B6 – soothes, so the quality of sleep is better, Zinc – helps to immerse yourself in deep sleep, Melatonin – a synthesized sleep hormone preparation , which informs the body that it is time to sleep, then if it is really difficult to fall asleep, you can try it. I was surprised that “Coal” is also often mentioned as a sleep lifter, it is usually recommended when traveling after long flights when there is a so-called “jetlag” due to its strong antioxidant properties. It helps the body to cleanse quickly, which makes the body function better and it helps with sleep.
- Food and Drink + Alcohol and Smoking
The food we eat has a significant effect on our sleep. It is important to consume a lot of vegetables that are rich in the already mentioned minerals – Vitamin D, Magnesium, Zinc and Calcium – which help our body to cleanse and activate the production of melatonin. This salad with as many green vegetables as spinach, arugula, kale can be a good choice. Nuts, poultry, and other protein-containing products contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is involved in the production of melatonin, which is why sleep experts often recommend almonds, walnuts, turkey, and milk. Healthy fats rich in fatty fish are high in Vitamin D and Omega 3, which are responsible for the production of the hormone serotonin, while serotonin in turn controls the cycles of sleep and wakefulness.
What we eat is very important for the quality of our sleep, but what we do not eat is no less important. Sugar is the biggest poison that is actually probably more harmful to our body than cigarettes or alcohol. Especially before going to bed, we need to limit our sugar intake because it increases the amount of insulin in our blood, which prevents us from falling asleep. Therefore, sleep researchers usually recommend that you stop eating 2-4 hours before going to bed so that your body does not have to deal with insulin but can rest. It is often recommended to stop drinking coffee 10-12 hours before going to bed, it is best to drink it in the morning, and if you like the taste of coffee, you can drink decaffeinated coffee later in the day, which similarly reduces hunger but does not interfere with sleep cycles. I have to note that in the latest and some of the biggest sleep studies by Harvard Medical School, this theory of caffeine as a sleep disruptor is refuted, but there are a bunch of other studies that show that caffeine is not the best sleep buddy, so you should play with it with caution. What really balances sleep is nicotine and alcohol, smoking before bed reduces your sleep time by almost 1 hour!